I used to dream about far off places and unknown adventures. The thought of "settling down" evoked a giving up, as if I was literally settling for something not as good as something else. The final act of adult compromise. The giving up of childhood curiosity.
Like many millennials, the idea of choosing to be tied to a place made me feel boxed in, like a panicky caged butterfly. So I flew. And I flitted about. Traveling and exploring. Looking for the freedom my generation has been known to crave.
Instead of freedom, I found short bursts of fun that was often followed by emptiness. Ryan and I would have a blast exploring a new mountain town or national landmark, but the drive back to our little lonesome camper felt off. We'd come home and wake up in a new location daily. We'd go to coffee shops, craving connection, missing friends. But even the smiles and short conversations were hollow because they led to nothing more. A butterfly can only fly so long before freedom feels heavy. Each location bled into the next, each country and city and town felt the same as the last. Faces seemed to resemble each other. And eventually the uniqueness of change felt monotonous and tired.
Without a sense of place, I lost a sense of self.
The power of place is a beautiful thing and we knew we needed it again. So we chose to insert back into a geographical location. To do the unthinkable. To settle. To give up the idea that I could live in one thousand locations and experience one thousand different lives. It honestly was more by force than choice. But as it unfolded, I began to feel a deep grounding in my identity again.
I knew the perfect spot the sun came up in my little house and I looked forward to it daily. I learned the black raspberries come to season in my neighborhood in late May. (And I found the best spot where they grow generously). I felt like a little kid again licking my sticky, black fingers.
I chose to be proud of my beach town. It was no longer a place to escape from, but a place to escape to. I understood what it was like to walk down the street and feel known. To run into all kinds of friends and family on the beach boardwalk on our Friday night walk. I learned how to read the waves for a good surf. How to know when a storm was coming. How to stay committed to friendships my early 20 somethings self knew nothing about.
The power of place contained more freedom than all the wandering ever could. And I still wander, yes I do. I still love to hop on a plane and wake up in an undiscovered city. But it's with a deep knowledge of who I am, where I'm from, and the beautiful place I get to return to. My little Flagler Beach town.
The power of place is a gift I now give my kids, who will grow up in an even more disconnected generation than my own. It's a priceless gift my parents gave me.
I give them the joy that comes with loving an actual physical place. Embracing it for the good and the bad. To be wholly committed to making it better. I give them the gift of knowing the rhythms of the ocean. The sound of each native bird in our yard. And the absolute glee that comes from knowing black raspberries will be here soon.
Most importantly, with a sense of place, comes the gift of connection. Something 2020 made me love about my home. The people. Everywhere I go, running into people I love and who love me. A place to belong, even when it's not perfect.
I gift my children these people. A sense of knowness. Of seeing old friends on the boardwalk. Of bumping into their Mumsie and Papa at their ice cream shop, or heading to the beach with their Grandma and Grandpa. Watching me surf with friends every Thursday morning. Understanding that even when hard things happen to, people are there. Holding us. Walking us through to joy.
We choose to tie ourselves to this place, because commitment is hard in this world. And it feels too big to handle sometimes. But if I can embrace my little town and its people, I can change the world in a way that will return the joy tenfold.
And maybe my kiddos will leave one day like I did. They might choose a new home. And that's ok. But I hope I'll have taught them how to find the freedom to settle somewhere good. To bury in deep in a place with people that matter. To choose community and fight for it.
Hey, friend! I'm Chelsie!
Stay a while and get comfy. <3